Writing Rules

Writing is all at once a fun hobby, a life-long obsession, and a soul-crushing whirlwind of endless failures, creative stifling, stagnation, and crushed dreams that is completely worth it in the end.

At least, that’s how I feel about it.

However, it is no way easy to be, “good” at writing. Sure, you can have a degree of talent in the craft; some ability that lets you put the right words in the right places in a way that makes whoever is reading it feel all warm and fuzzy. Chances are, if you’re a talented writer, you know it, and you have a desire to use that talent. Unfortunately, that’s when all the bullshit comes in and fucking smears itself all over everything you want to accomplish, leaving you delirious and ruined.

Talent is only the start. It’s the work that puts words on the page, and that work is what everyone wants the help with. Nobody can help you “get” talent, you either have it or you don’t.  You can try and hone your strengths, and sharpen certain things you aren’t exactly a rock star at, but being a really bad writer is tragically un-curable. And thank whomever you want to thank for that, because the last thing the world needs is more bad writers.

The work.

The hard part.

The thing that happens when you sit down and put words to the page.

That’s the thing everyone wants help with, and rightly so, because that’s the part every writer gets stuck on. That’s when one can turn to one of 60 trillion “Rules of Writing.” You can read rules written by everyone from Stephen King to Neil Gaimen. Almost all of those lists of rules suck, and they suck because only you can do the work you need to be doing. You need to sit down at your keyboard and fucking type. Sure, those rules may help with character, and plot and all of those other things that you need to chuck into your pieces, but none of those rules will help you put words on the page.

Writing rules are bullshit. Knowing that, here are my 10 Bullshit Writing Rules. I thought them up. They work for me. They might help you get back to work. If not, disregard them as a bunch of useless words.

1. Avoid Bad Bukowski

I love Bukowski. I wanted to be Bukowski. When I started writing my first novel, the writing happened in tandem with the devouring of several Bukowski novels. His writing was the writing I wanted to have written. The problem with that though, is that I’m not Bukowski, and I can’t write his writing like he could. I have to remind myself of that every time I sit down to write something. It’s one thing to take influence from your favourite writers and try and work their strengths into your writing. It’s another thing to ape their writing in an attempt to be something you’re not.

2. Don’t Get Stuck

When you’re stuck, you’re not writing. When you’re not writing, you’re not a writer; you’re just a normal person. Don’t let yourself get stuck. Write through the walls and problems, even if you’re writing just the word “fuck” over and over again. Problems and obstacles are going to come up. Don’t let them stop you.

3. Write For Yourself

While it’s nice to write stuff that’ll make other people happy. In the end it’s just you and the keys you’re hitting. Writing is a selfish and lonely act, and because of that, it should be just for you before it’s for anyone else. If you love yourself, maybe someone else can love you too.

4. Don’t Turn Work Down

If someone offers you a writing gig, do the job. If it’s for free, if its only once a month, if the money sucks, or if it isn’t in your chosen vein, do it anyway. If someone asks you to cover a gardening circle, pick up some fucking pruning shears and dig in. You can learn something from every writing gig you do, and it all looks good on a resume. Also, gardening can be therapeutic.

5. Abandon Bullshit

You should know if something is bullshit. If you don’t know what bullshit looks like, read more shitty books, and then eliminate all of the things those books do from your own writing.

6. Published Means Finished

Pieces of writing, novels, short stories, and poems can all be written over a course of days, weeks, months, or years. But when you finish typing, don’t pat yourself on the back. You haven’t finished anything until that piece of writing is published. It’s not finished until someone else who isn’t your mom, girlfriend, boyfriend, or roommate reads it. If nobody publishes it, then it’s not ready, and if it’s not ready, then it’s not finished. If you want to be a writer, then you don’t want to do it so that you have a nice pile of printed pages for your cat to sit on. You do it to get published, accept nothing less than that as a finish line.

7. Get Writing

Like, right now. Stop reading this and get writing. Open a word document, pick up a piece of paper, grab a cocktail napkin and write something. Writers write, and you’re not writing when you’re doing other, lesser stuff. This shit is important, so get the fuck to it.

8. Don’t Read Stupid Rules of Writing Lists

Just don’t. They’re contradictory, and written by bitter assholes who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Most of the time they just lie about the items on the list to make themselves look cool or smart or whatever. Hey, shouldn’t you be off writing?

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